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Phespirit goes to Singapore
Singapore     February 2010

This was different from Phespirit's usual travels. He had previously visited Singapore in 2003, sandwiched between trips to Hong Kong and Bangkok as part of a two-week mini tour of the Orient. In a hectic handful of days he flitted between all the major tourist spots on the island, pausing only to sink a Singapore Sling in The Long Bar at Raffles. His return visit in 2010 was not for tourism, but to see his brother who had moved there for his work seven months earlier. This could and would allow for a longer and altogether more leisurely visit.

Phespirit still had some unfinished tourist business that required his attention: he took a stroll around Fort Canning Park, that historic smudge of green at the heart of the city; he spent an unlikely four hours in the magnificent Jurong Bird Park; and he wandered through the weird, wonderful and oh-so kitsch sculpture park of the Haw Par Villa, with its blood-soaked Dantesque 'Ten Courts of Hell'. Phespirit also had time to revisit some familiar sites: the inevitable walk along Orchard Road; the streets and temples of Chinatown that looked especially colourful in the build-up to the new lunar year; and the laid back waterfront cafés at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay.

The best of times was taken off the beaten track. The Kranji Nature Trail and Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve provided access to the semi-wild northwest corner. "WATCH IT!" notices showing pictures of crocodiles kept Phespirit alert. Most enjoyable of all, however, were trips to three of the outlying islands. Phespirit spent one whole day walking around Pulau Ubin off the northeast coast, and another in the south, on the neighbouring islands of St. John's and Kusu. Pulau Ubin is by far the largest of the three, heavily forested, with a well-mapped network of roads, footpaths and boardwalks. It is ideal for wildlife watching.

Whilst on Ubin, Phespirit was fortunate enough to see: Long-tailed Macaques, a Wild Pig, an Asian Toad, Mudskippers, Archer Fish, Pipefish, Fiddler Crabs, huge Golden Web Spiders, Asian Glossy Starlings, Black-headed Munias, a Black-naped Oriole, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Collared Kingfishers, a Common Flameback, a Common Kingfisher, Common Mynas, a Hill Myna, Oriental Pied Hornbills, a Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-bellied Sea Eagles, a Yellow-vented Bulbul, various swifts, swallows, doves and waders, and assorted butterflies of every colour. St. John's and Kusu are much smaller and less-populated by people and animals, and therefore make ideal serene retreats.

Back on the 'mainland', there had to be time for Phespirit to revisit Raffles Hotel, to take a seat in The Long Bar with his brother, and for them to get in a couple of rounds of Singapore Slings. Phespirit is a fan of The Long Bar: an ex-colonial chill-out transit lounge with old-style fixtures and fittings, an irritating modern soundtrack, and an endless supply of complimentary peanuts, their shells scattered casually upon the floor. At £13.14 for single Sling, it's a bit pricey but Phespirit will always go back when he's in town.

It was with sadness in his heart that Phespirit eventually departed Singapore. His flights back to England mirrored the route by which he had arrived: a seven hour flight to Qatar, followed by a two hour wait at Doha International Airport, and then another seven hour flight onward to London. He had checked in at Changi Airport during the penultimate hour of the Chinese year of the Ox, and flew out in the new lunar year of the Tiger. He hopes that much fewer than seven years will have elapsed before his next return visit.

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